“Data-Driven Thinking" is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.
Today’s column is written by Ariel Napchi, founder and CEO at Hiro Media.
In recent months, several major programmers have taken steps toward adding over-the-top (OTT) content services to their capabilities, rivaling the traditional television model.
Most recently, Viacom’s Nickelodeon announced it would launch a new OTT service, making it the latest contender trying to disrupt traditional media. While the growing number of networks is exciting for cord-cutting consumers, I believe too many industry players are creating a “rearview-mirror effect” by essentially recreating what has already been done in OTT distribution, which I believe prevents industry progress and impedes innovation.
The traditional distribution model, as seen with television, is an impersonal experience and requires viewers to select their channels for viewing content of choice. On the other hand, the online environment allows for personalization and for creators to target specific viewers. This is already seen in advertising where successful online ads target content to the viewer.
The Rearview-Mirror Effect
“When faced with a totally new situation, we tend always to attach ourselves to the objects, to the flavor of the most recent past,” media philosopher Marshall McLuhan wrote in his 1967 book, “The Medium is the Message.” “We look at the present through a rearview mirror. We march backwards into the future.”
This reflects a known human behavior where one reuses old behavioral patterns in a new environment. We saw this behavior when media applied the same radio techniques to television, instead of creating disruption. The same can be said of some online media networks.
Many media companies currently focus on the special creative or storytelling for online environment. While I am sure we could find new and exciting shows through Nickelodeon or other OTT services, the evolution of media is the evolution of distribution. Moving from terrestrial channels to analog channels enabled MTV and CNN. Moving from analog to digital enabled the creation of various MTV channels.
The Move Toward Personalization
As the shift toward online video content and advertising continues day by day, it is important that we don't repeat the patterns of old models. The “pattern” of traditional TV is broadcast – all viewers need to approach a single channel for viewing content. This is a passive and impersonalized experience by definition.
I believe that in the online environment, the new “pattern” we should adopt is personalization and push, meaning that content must be personalized and targeted in a proactive way to viewers on sites and channels that they visit regularly. By doing this, viewers are presented with the personalization they expect to receive, while content owners are ensured the maximum monetization of their content.
Advertising is a good example of this. I do not expect people to search for their favorite ad. Instead, I should target and push it to them wherever they visit.
Keeping Consumers Engaged
Successful online viewership is not about how many people enter a site to watch content – that would be traditional TV. It is about catering content to the viewer.
For online content creators and advertisers, this means that viewers are more likely to remain engaged, presenting a long-term sustainable solution for reaching target audiences. Unlike the traditional TV model, the viewer sees content and ads relevant to their interests everywhere they look. Essentially, being connected online allows content to be geared toward individual users, unlike traditional media.
For example, millions of people tune to HBO on Sunday nights to watch “Game of Thrones.” Whether viewers tune in to HBO’s cable station or its streaming service, viewers are essentially still searching for “Game of Thrones,” regardless of the avenue they use. A new model would feature an updated service that automatically provides viewers with “Game of Thrones,” no matter where they are tuned in. With this example in mind, OTT content services are, at the end of the day, just another traditional experience in which you need to enter a specific site and seek out content.
To avoid the rearview-mirror effect, it’s vital that we update both our content and distribution approaches. The advertising industry already realized this with targeting and native advertising. Now it’s time for the content industry to realize it. Some leaders in the market, such as Mark Burnett and Dori Media, understand this and now major players should come on board.
Viewers should be catered to, with content in which they are interested pushed to the sites that they already visit. Any other approach will leave the industry in the past.